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'Tale of two cities makes decision to close schools tough
Snow to the north, rain to the south creates dilemma for Hall officials
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In Gainesville and Flowery Branch on Thursday, the overnight snow quickly turned to slush and what little ice remained on the pavements had melted by mid-morning.

Meanwhile on the northern end of Hall County, slowly rising temperatures were just beginning to melt the 4-5 inches of snow that fell in the area.

According to Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield, these varying conditions can make the call to close schools difficult.

“We are a tremendously big county with the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi River,” Schofield said. “We also sit at the base of the Appalachian Mountains, so you’ve got that northeaster wedge that comes down and really gives us often two very different weather patterns.”

Schofield said it’s possible, as was the case Thursday, for North Hall to experience more severe winter weather conditions while the Gainesville area and south toward Flowery Branch may have milder weather.

“We have the ‘tale of two cities’ in Hall County this morning,” Schofield said in an email Thursday. “Early reports are that almost all road and parking lot conditions from Gainesville and South are clear. However, in the North we have ice- and snow-covered secondary roads and parking lots that are almost impassable.”

All school crews worked Thursday morning to pretreat parking lots and clear lots at North Hall schools. Schofield said Hall County and state Department of Transportation crews also were working on the affected roads, easing access to schools in that area.

While it’s possible for some of the county schools to open while others delay, Schofield said that’s not an ideal option.

“Once you’ve missed seven or eight days of school, we would consider it,” he said. “Normally, we would not. We’ve got so many employees and families that live in one of our Hall County communities and work in another. We would probably have some staffing challenges.”

Schofield said such an option would be considered in extreme circumstances, and was being considered briefly Thursday morning when northern parts of the county were still sitting under a layer of snow and ice.

Both Hall County and Gainesville City schools planned to open today with normal schedules (see full closings list). Schofield said parents were encouraged to decide when it is safe for children to return to school, with weather-related tardies excused.

“But we saw some real improvements in road conditions across the county all day,” he said. “I think we’re going to be pretty well ready for a normal opening tomorrow countywide.”

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